RDF query and inference in a distributed environm ent

Roderic Page r.page at BIO.GLA.AC.UK
Wed Jan 4 16:41:24 CET 2006

>  Yes I agree with Chuck that we have to be carefull here. 
>  For example providers have agreed to make their data public by  
> providing it to GBIF, but are not aware what this really implies. Most  
> of our providers are for example very pleased to have now their  
> georeferenced data so easy and nice in google earth others are not  
> because of the lack of precision or the fact that apparently some  
> center of areas are shown fasely as too precise sampling points.  
> Conversely, having poorly georeferenced data so readily visible could  
> be seen as a Good Thing (tm).

Eric Raymond's phrase "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow"  
springs to mind, the idea being that in open software development,  
having many people involved tends to find bugs fast, and fix them  
quickly. This phrase comes from his article "The Cathedral and the  
which I'd recommend. The idea is that some people think computer  
software is best done by a small number of experts (the cathedral),  
whereas the lesson from open source is that a bunch of people,  
seemingly working in chaos (the bazaar), can yield better results.

The culture of taxonomy is driven by reliance on a few experts, whereas  
I suggest we'd be better off involving as many people as possible.   
This means making our data available, being prepared to expose "bugs"  
(such as bad georeferencing), and developing mechanisms to fix  
mistakes. If we rely solely on experts, I think we're doomed.

Here's one example. When playing with my iSpecies.org toy, I entered  
"Hoplobatrachus tigerinus", which it turns out is an Asian frog. If I  
go to GBIF and search on this name  
taxonKey=358519&countryKey=0&resourceKey=0), I discover that ITIS lists  
Bufo typhonius as a synonym. From that link, GBIF gives me lots of  
records from America.

Now, the history of these two frog names is a bit messy, but it's clear  
from Amphibian Species of the World  
that the records from the Americas that GBIF lists have nothing to do  
with Hoplobatrachus tigerinus.

Now, I know nothing about frogs, but just by playing I've found a  
problem with records served by several major museums.  I wouldn't mind  
betting that the museums themselves are unaware of the problem with  
this record -- given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.



Professor Roderic D. M. Page
Editor, Systematic Biology
Graham Kerr Building
University of Glasgow
Glasgow G12 8QP
United Kingdom

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email:    r.page at bio.gla.ac.uk
web:      http://taxonomy.zoology.gla.ac.uk/rod/rod.html
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